Have you ever lost something? You look for it for days, maybe weeks, and eventually you just give up, knowing you’ll never find it. Maybe one day it randomly shows up somewhere. But, then again, maybe it doesn’t. Yet we are always hoping it will make its return.
. . . . . .
The young man demands his share of possessions and goes out into the world, where he wastes everything. Driven to the lowest of the low, he finds the pigs he is feeding have it better than he does, so he decides to return home and beg his family to take him back, even if it means as a servant. Upon returning home, he is, surprisingly, greeted with open arms and a celebration of his return. His family accepts him back.
Does this story sound familiar? It should. It’s the story of the Prodigal Son, found in Luke 15:11-32.
I found a new church this past weekend, and it was the first church I’ve been to here that felt natural, almost like home. It was their launch, so it was their first official service, but it somehow felt familiar. I will be going back. The message on grace and the prodigal son really impacted me, and I hope it will impact you, too.
The pastor explained the story like this: basically, the young man demanded his half of his inheritance, which he wouldn’t typically get until his father died, and he left home and squandered it. After hitting rock bottom, he eventually realized he had wronged his father and he desired to return home, asking his father to accept him in the household as a servant. However, when the son neared his home, the father saw him and welcomed him back with open arms and decided to throw a party to celebrate his return.
This youngest son chose to disrespect his father. He chose to live immorally, wildly, and waste what he had. He had made terrible decisions. The biggest thing is he had to come to his senses on his own.
. . . . . .
This decision I have been writing about beating myself up over was the decision to take a job, because my husband and I could no longer afford where we were living. We argued about it for days, but I thought we had come to a mutual decision, so I accepted the offer and made the move, believing he would follow within months.
Two months into the job, I not only began to realize it wasn’t for me, but my husband explained he was still extremely angry about it all. After not speaking for a month, he explained he wanted us to separate.
During that phone call, the calmest and most adult one we had had in a while, I asked if this was leading to a divorce. He sighed and said he did not see them as the same thing. When I asked if we can seek counseling in a few months, he said we would discuss that later.
It’s been six months now, and I haven’t received any sort of legal paperwork. But I also haven’t heard from him.
. . . . . .
There were two things in the message that I felt God meant me to hear.
The first was the face that the son had to come to his senses. He had made terrible choices, yes, but no one could have convinced him otherwise. No one could have told him to go home and beg for forgiveness. In fact, I picture this son fighting himself internally—he needed to return home, but he had done this to himself so how could he possibly face his father? He had to come to terms with his choices in his own time, and he had to make the decision to return home on his own.
The second thing that struck me was the pastor said he always pictured that father as sitting on the porch every night, waiting, and hoping to see his son on the horizon. Maybe he prayed every night for his son’s return. Maybe he shed some tears in quiet. Eventually, though, this patience paid off because the son came home.
I spent days, weeks, months even, writing to my husband in hopes that I could say the right thing that would make him turn his thinking around. But I can’t do that. He has to come to his senses on his own. So I continue to pray every day for him and our marriage.
The pastor also gave us the difference between justice, mercy, and grace, and I found them rather fitting.
Justice is getting what you deserve.
Mercy is not getting a punishment you deserve.
Grace is getting more than you deserve.
The son in the story surely deserved punishment, right? I’m sure none of us would disagree that he did. He received mercy. What he also received, though, was grace. His father could have made him a servant, could have given him exactly what he deserved. The son didn’t deserve a party. In fact, the oldest son says this at the end of the story, explaining he had never disrespected their father, yet he has not received this celebration.
His father’s reply was simple: “It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.” [Italics mind.]
That is grace.
. . . . . .
No, this didn’t make my depression go away. Yes, I still went through today where some moments seemed hopeful and others hopeless. But the message of the prodigal son and grace has stuck with me.
I have seen friends having children and families, and I long for that. That is all I have ever wanted with my husband. And I can’t count the number of times I have prayed, trying to bargain with God: “if you just grant me this, I will do anything.”
I think right now, though, He is trying to tell me I need to be patient. I think, too, He is telling me I need to come to my own senses.
I realize now the decision was made out of fear, not out of genuine prayer. I realize now I was so desperate to prove myself, when I didn’t need to prove anything to anyone. I realize I should have been more patient then.
I can’t change what has been done, but I can work to truly put my faith into practice.
I will be waiting, as I promised. I will pray every day. My heart and soul are already on their knees. I will not give up. I will not stop fighting. And I will show more than mercy; I will show grace.
I don’t know how things will turn out, and, yes, that frustrates me. But the Bible is full of redemption and God is a god of restoration.
. . . . . .
Have you heard the story of the prodigal son before? How does it speak to you?
What do you need grace for today?